IgG1 b12 is a broadly neutralizing antibody against human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1). The epitope recognized by b12 overlaps the CD4 receptor-binding site (CD4bs) on gp120 and has been a target for vaccine design. Determination of the three-dimensional structure of immunoglobulin G1 (IgG1) b12 allowed modeling of the b12-gp120 interaction in which the protruding third complementarity-determining region (CDR) of the heavy chain (H3) was crucial for antibody binding. In the present study, extensive mutational analysis of the antigen-binding site of Fab b12 was carried out to investigate the validity of the model and to identify residues important for gp120 recognition and, by inference, key to the anti-HIV-1 activity of IgG1 b12. In all, 50 mutations were tested: 40 in H3, 4 each in H2 and L1, and 2 in L3. The results suggest that the interaction of gp120 with H3 of b12 is crucially dependent not only on a Trp residue at the apex of the H3 loop but also on a number of residues at the base of the loop. The arrangement of these residues, including aromatic side chains and side chains that hydrogen bond across the base of the loop, may rigidify H3 for penetration of the recessed CD4-binding cavity. The results further emphasize the importance to gp120 binding of a Tyr residue at the apex of the H2 loop that forms a second finger-like structure and a number of Arg residues in L1 that form a positively charged, shelf-like structure. In general, the data are consistent with the b12-gp120 interaction model previously proposed. At the gene level, somatic mutation is seen to be crucial for the generation of many of the structural features described. The Fab b12 mutants were also tested against the b12 epitope-mimic peptide B2.1, and the reactivity profile had many similarities but also significant differences from that observed for gp120. The paratope map of b12 may facilitate the design of molecules that are able to elicit b12-like activities.